CARACAS (Reuters) - Assailants shot dead a former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband in the latest high-profile case of violent crime in the South American nation, authorities said on Tuesday.
Monica Spear, 29, who was also a soap opera actress, and Henry Berry, 39, died in an attempted robbery on the highway between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in central Venezuela.
The 2004 Miss Venezuela winner lived in the United States but was vacationing in Venezuela.
Police say the armed robbers approached the stranded couple as they waited in their car for a repair truck. When the terrified couple locked themselves in the Toyota Corolla, the robbers fired through the windows.
The pair's five-year-old daughter survived the attack late on Monday, but with a bullet wound in her leg, the government and local media said.
Reports indicated Spear's car may have broken down before armed robbers approached - a common occurrence on roads after dark in one of the world's most violent nations.
Showbiz colleagues were devastated.
"I'm so sad for my Venezuela, my condolences for Monica Spear's family. Rage and impotence are what I feel right now," wrote Venezuelan salsa singer Oscar D'Leon on Twitter.
Another friend of the family, Carlos Drakkar, said these attacks happen too often in the embattled area.
"This is a very difficult moment for all of us to deal with. We are doing all we can to help out friends in this difficult moment," he said.
"These things happen all too often in this country. Something has to change."
Venezuela's official homicide rate late year was 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, but local non-government organisations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths.
President Nicolas Maduro has declared beating violent crime his No. 1 priority, and polls consistently show it to be Venezuelans' main concern.
But opponents say the government's anti-crime plans are not tackling root causes, such as impunity for criminals, corrupt courts and police complicity in some crime.
(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Stephen Powell)